The fallout from the Hague’s ruling against Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea continues, as Vietnam claims Beijing has been lying about support for its position from Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
As Reuters explains, Phuc met with Chinese Premiere Li Kequiang at a summit of Asian and European leaders last week — an encounter China appears to have spun into Phuc telling Li that “Vietnam respected China’s stance and was willing to promote bilateral talks” over conflicting territorial claims with the Philippines. Beijing spent the week after the Hague ruling boasting about all of the Asian countries that support its claims.
Vietnam has dismissed these reports in Chinese media as “untruthful,” insisting through the government’s official news website that Phuc discussed the Philippine situation with Li, but has not taken an official position on the Hague’s arbitration verdict.
“Vietnam has been circumspect on the ruling, saying only that it welcomed the court delivering a verdict. Analysts say the victory for the Philippines is a favorable outcome for Vietnam, which has its own maritime problems with its giant neighbor China, but limits the extent of its criticism,” Reuters points out.
Shanghaiist observes there were protests in Hanoi by anti-Chinese protesters this week, sparked by China’s claim that Vietnam supported their position in the South China Sea.
After security forces rounded up and detained these demonstrators, a smaller group appeared at the Philippine embassy, holding signs that said, “Thank you, Philippines, you have a brave government,” and, “China, you must comply with international law.”
Bloomberg News says the spat between Vietnam and China “highlights the difficulty for China in walking a line between President Xi Jinping’s ‘neighborhood diplomacy’ and in continuing its assertions to sovereignty – and its military buildup – in the waterway.”
After investing much effort in positioning itself as a friendly leader in Asia, China has become a bully, throwing a temper tantrum over the international court ruling — so blind in its rage that it forgot about all the reasons Vietnam would be unlikely to support its case against the Philippines.
It is not just Vietnam, either, as Bloomberg notes China did essentially the same thing to Sri Lanka, twisting a statement that Sri Lanka “understands” Beijing’s position into “understands and applauds.”
Furthermore, Fiji, Cambodia, Poland, Slovenia, and India have refuted Chinese claims of support with varying degrees of annoyance.
In fact, even the Philippine government is grumbling about the Chinese falsely representing their position. China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, claimed the Philippines were willing to enter bilateral negotiations that would completely disregard the Hague’s ruling, but Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said ignoring the ruling would not be “consistent with our constitution and our national interest.”
In response, the Chinese are basically portraying all of the nations who reject Beijing’s claims of support as temporarily insane — cracking under the “huge pressure” of being identified as supporters by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, as former Chinese official Zhao Qizheng put it.